November Tips and Tasks

— Written By and last updated by Kate Holt


  • November is a great time to plant bulbs for spring flowers. It is also a good time to divide established bulb plantings if they need it. Bulbs that will perform year after year in Onslow County include: daffodils, star flower (Ipheion uniflorum), blue bottles (Muscari neglectum), Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica), summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) and lilies (both Asiatic and Oriental). Tulips and hyacinths tend to melt out after several seasons due to our warm, moist summers.
  • If you are planning on making new garden beds, or expanding current ones, why not do it now and save yourself some work during the hectic spring season? You can make a “lasagna bed” or cover an area of grass with thick newspapers and mulch. In the spring you will have an area ready to amend and plant — without having to remove sod!
  • Clean up! Remove summer annuals, as well as any foliage that has fallen on the soil and compost them. If any plants had insect or disease problems, carefully clean up leaves and debris and remove them from the yard (don’t compost insect or disease-laden plant material!). Collect leaves and debris from healthy plants and compost them. Leave ornamental grasses and pollinator plants standing for winter interest and to provide overwintering habitat.  


  • Mow the lawn one last time. You can mulch leaves with your lawn mower and spread a light layer over the yard to add organic matter to the soil. Warm season grasses do not grow during late fall and don’t require any fertilizer before spring. Fertilizing at this time will encourage weed growth and disease problems like large patch and winterkill.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Fall is the time to divide and replant perennials as well as the best time of year to plant and transplant most trees and shrubs. Remember to keep new plantings well watered during their first several weeks as they get established.
  • You can prune shrubs and trees to remove dead, diseases or broken limbs but save significant pruning for the dormant season (Feb/Mar) and spring blooming shrubs shouldn’t be pruned until after they flower (or you will lose next spring’s blooms).
  • Once all of the leaves have fallen, give your landscape plantings a layer of mulch over top. Three to four inches of mulch is good but excessive mulch can also cause problems so check the thickness of your mulch first. Old mulch can be freshened by raking. Don’t let mulch lie against the trunks of trees and shrubs or it will encourage pest and disease problems. You can spread a 2-3 inch layer of mulch over dormant perennials but don’t cover the foliage of evergreen perennials like hellebores.
  • If you haven’t already moved your houseplants back indoors, do so now. Inspect plants, including the root ball, for insects before bringing them inside. Aphids, scale, spider mites and whiteflies are common houseplant pests. If you find insects, treat them with an appropriate insecticide before bringing them back in the house. As always, read and follow all label directions of the product you select. Some insecticides will require a second application to break the lifecycle of the pest. The move to lower light will result in some plant stress, you may see some leaves yellowing or dropping as the plants acclimate.
  • Bring in any pots that can’t take a freeze — terra cotta, ceramic, and many plastic pots.